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Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Big Ten class rankings analysis

By Tom VanHaaren


There have been commitments and decommitments across the board in the Big Ten, which means there has been movement among the class rankings.

As signing day approaches, teams will be looking to fill the final spots in their class. Here is a look at trends and a few items to watch within the conference:

Trending up: No Big Ten teams moved up in the class rankings for this week, but that doesn’t mean schools aren’t improving.

Penn State has been on a tear recently with James Franklin and his staff on board. Despite losing ESPN 300 defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) to Florida and defensive back Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore/Gilman) to NC State, the Nittany Lions have added some big pieces as well.

The most recent was three-star athlete Trace McSorley (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods), who flipped his commitment from Vanderbilt to Penn State. McSorley was originally recruited as a defensive back by Franklin at Vanderbilt, but then the offer was switched to quarterback while he was committed to the Commodores.

McSorley will add some depth and competition at the quarterback spot for Penn State, as Christian Hackenberg and early enrollee Michael O’Connor are the only other quarterbacks on the roster.

Indiana has also been on a nice run, picking up five commitments in the past week, from linebacker Tegray Scales (Cincinnati/Colerain), running back Tommy Mister (Chicago/St. Rita), athlete Waynedriko Smith (Orlando, Fla./Orangewood Christian) and defensive backs Zeke Walker (Cayce, S.C./Brookland-Cayce) and Tony Fields (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby).

Trending down: Michigan hasn’t lost any commitments in the 2014 class, but the Wolverines lost ESPN Junior 300 running back Damien Harris (Berea, Ky./Madison Southern) over the weekend.

Harris is the No. 1-ranked running back and No. 17 overall in the 2015 class. Losing Harris and fellow ESPN Junior 300 member George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) is a big blow to the 2015 class.

Add in the fact that Michigan’s main remaining target for the 2014 class, Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) could end up not picking Michigan and could end up at rival Michigan State or Ohio State, that’s more bad news for Michigan.

The Wolverines haven’t landed a commitment since August and steadily have been moving down the class rankings. If the coaches miss on McDowell, that would mean they missed on three major targets: McDowell, five-star defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) to Alabama and in-state defensive end Jhonathon Williams (Berrien Springs, Mich./Berrien Springs) to Notre Dame.

One to watch: David Njoku (Cedar Grove, N.J./Cedar Grove) recently received an offer from Ohio State. He had been in communication with the Buckeyes for quite some time, but finally received the offer.

Njoku can play tight end or wide receiver, depending on which school is recruiting him, and he is also considering Penn State. The three-star prospect will take a visit to Ohio State on Jan. 31 and will make a decision shortly after that.

There is other competition to land the 6-foot-4, 215-pound athlete, but there is a good chance he ends up in the Big Ten.

Bold prediction: Signing day is going to be crazy. That’s not all that bold, but there are still a lot of pieces left to this Big Ten puzzle.

Wisconsin is hoping to land ESPN 300 prospects Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation) and Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), while Ohio State and Penn State are still after ESPN 300 defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes).

Offensive lineman Frank Ragnow (Victoria, Minn./Chanhassen) has Minnesota in his top three with Arkansas and Florida State. The Gophers are also hoping to land receiver Melvin Holland Jr. (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods).

Illinois is hoping to secure a few commitments, potentially from junior college prospects, to finish out its class, and Nebraska is searching for another defensive end after losing Darius Slade (Montclair, N.J./Montclair) to Michigan State.

The Cornhuskers are also hoping to reel in wide receiver DeSean Blair (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) and could target quarterback Jaquez Parks (Griffin, Ga./Griffin).

To make a prediction on what will end up happening come signing day would be nearly impossible. The only thing that is predictable is that it’s going to be fun to watch.